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Empire State Building (ESB) vs. Top of the Rock

Empire State Building (ESB) vs. Top of the Rock

Old Apr 25, 06, 10:21 am
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Empire State Building (ESB) vs. Top of the Rock

What are the approximate wait times (on a Saturday) to visit the observation decks at the Empire State Building? Top of the Rock?

I read that you can reserve a time/appointment for the Top of the Rock by buying tickets in advance...

Thanks!
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Old Apr 26, 06, 2:00 pm
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I went to the ESB on a Saturday about two months ago and waited for around half an hour. It was a cold, windy day, but clear.

Greg
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Old Apr 26, 06, 2:26 pm
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I went to the Top of the Rock mid-day on a Saturday a few weeks ago. We did not get tickets ahead of time, and did not have to wait at all. They offer timed tickets, however, in case you happen to arrive on a day when there's a big crowd. And you can order your timed tickets ahead of time at http://topoftherocknyc.com/.

I highly recommend the Top of the Rock over the ESB.

As I see it, the Top of the Rock has a bunch of advantages:
  • Price
  • Short or nonexistent lines (and timed tickets available in case there ever is a line)
  • Interesting and creative multimedia exhibits about Rockefeller Center before you go up the elevator
  • Fun, fast elevator ride with a transparent ceiling so you can see the elevator shaft
  • Less crowded viewing deck
  • 360-degree views without having to walk around the building, including the Statue of Liberty, all of Central Park, and the ESB itself (which you can't see very well when you're standing on top of it)
  • No ugly metal fencing around the viewing deck
  • It's in the middle of Rockefeller Center so there's plenty to do before/after you visit the viewing deck (the ESB is several blocks from much of anything that's interesting)

The only advantages I think the ESB has are:
  • bragging rights ("I've been to the top of the ESB" sounds much cooler than "I've been to the Top of the Rock"), and
  • better views of lower Manhattan

The only thing I didn't like about Top of the Rock was the absurd amount of merchandizing. We must have had to walk through gift shops at least 4 times during the course of the visit. But it sure beats standing in line.
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Old Apr 26, 06, 4:40 pm
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You can see the Empire State Building from the Top of the Rock, which is really nice to look at, especially at night. You can't see it from your other option.
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Old Apr 26, 06, 11:53 pm
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Originally Posted by themicah
The only thing I didn't like about Top of the Rock was the absurd amount of merchandizing. We must have had to walk through gift shops at least 4 times during the course of the visit. But it sure beats standing in line.
Agree with all, except to add the ESB picture thing is an annoyance to me but they probably make enough money off it.

I did both on a recent NYC trip and have done the ESB before, but did it again for nostalgia. I really liked the Top of the Rock and appreciated its location.
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Old May 13, 06, 1:05 pm
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Empire State Bldg definitely has a better view of lower Manhattan and even a little glimpse of Times Square. But their souvenirs were better than The Rock - it has more NYC posters and not just of ESB. There are glossy postcard like 2 for 1 admission coupons for The Rock that I see ppl have and I got one from a nice woman standing in front of us. That saved us $15 right there. I don't know where you can get those, may be at a tourism brochure rack?
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Old Apr 7, 08, 11:33 am
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Empire State Bldg Observatory -- Rotten Experience

I was showing my kid around Manhattan (his first visit) this weekend and around 730pm we decided on a whim to go up to the 86th floor. Giant mistake...

There is deceptive signage at the early stages of the wait to discourage you from bolting. When the sign says "This is just the security wait. Once you get past this point, you're on your way to the Observatory!" be warned that once you get past that point, you are four more long lines and at least one more hour from the Observatory.

You queue for airport-style security. You then queue to buy your ticket. You then queue to have a blue-screen picture taken (you are forced to do this even if you know you won't be buying the souvenir pic). You then queue to ride an elevator to the 80th floor. You then queue to ride another elevator to the 86th. With only moderate crowds (the rope-chain boxes were less than half filled at each point), each queue took at least 20 minutes. And each is out of sight of the others so the uninitiated keep thinking they're almost there.

Because the whole experience is being renovated, you go through all this in a series of shabby, unfinished, dusty rooms, passing through drywall and stacks of junk. It's like arriving at a fourth-world airport.

It took more than 90 minutes to get up there and by the time you make it you hardly care anymore. When you decide to go down, the process takes about 30 minutes. It is definitely not suitable for the elderly or low-stamina people.

And IMHO pricing is nuts even by NYC standards: $19 basic admission, an additional $15 if you want to go to the 102nd, plus relentless upselling (a small paper map showing landmarks, largely useless at night, is $8; an express queue-jumping pass is $25; etc.)

The ESB Observatory has to be one of the most unpleasant tourist experiences in New York. This is one Thing To Do that has totally degenerated since my golden youth... I've been up there for the last time. if you really want to see the view, hit the Top of the Rock instead.
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Old Apr 7, 08, 12:14 pm
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It's a shame as the view is priceless and it's a true NY experience. It used to be much better - though lines have always been long at peak times. The Rock (Rockefeller Center Observatory) may be a better alternative.
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Old Apr 7, 08, 12:24 pm
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Hi,

I was up at the Empire State building when I was in New York last september ( I bought the express ticket) but even then the 80th floor was being renovated and you had to queue then for the elevator to the 86th floor.

As the 86th floor is relativly narrow it was very crowded so you had to wait your turn to get close to the metal railings to take photos ( being there at dusk probably did not help things) then waiting to get down. ( that said the views towards lower manhattan were very good)

The Top of the Rock was much quieter , more spacious and more relaxing) ( views of lower mahattan not as good but you can get a good photo of the ESB) and nice views of central park.

Regards

TBS
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Old Apr 7, 08, 1:10 pm
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Originally Posted by erik123 View Post
It's a shame as the view is priceless and it's a true NY experience. It used to be much better - though lines have always been long at peak times. The Rock (Rockefeller Center Observatory) may be a better alternative.
I don't think it's a true New York experience; it's a pure tourist experience. To get up there is pure hell as the OP illustrated above. The lines are ridiculous and I no longer accompany visiting friends who want to go. I just meet them later.

If you go to Top of the Rock, you'll be able to see the skyline including the Empire State Building. That sounds like a better deal.
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Old Apr 7, 08, 7:41 pm
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In my Jr. High and H.S. days, we used to just go to random skyscrapers (Citicorp, Chrysler, etc), get in the elevator, and randomly hit a button 5-10 floors from the top. When we got there, wherever company was on that floor became the sudden topic of school research.

Banco Whatever de Brazil? "Hi, we're doing a term paper on the Latin American Finance System, do you have any information or brochures you can give us?" And so forth.

Usually, the receptionist would be helpful, a little impressed with our scholarly initiative, and a bit befuddled. She'd typically diasppear for a few minutes to find us something, and we just stood there enjoying the magnificent view.

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Old Apr 7, 08, 7:49 pm
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Originally Posted by swag View Post
In my Jr. High and H.S. days, we used to just go to random skyscrapers (Citicorp, Chrysler, etc), get in the elevator, and randomly hit a button 5-10 floors from the top. When we got there, wherever company was on that floor became the sudden topic of school research.

Banco Whatever de Brazil? "Hi, we're doing a term paper on the Latin American Finance System, do you have any information or brochures you can give us?" And so forth.

Usually, the receptionist would be helpful, a little impressed with our scholarly initiative, and a bit befuddled. She'd typically diasppear for a few minutes to find us something, and we just stood there enjoying the magnificent view.

Yeah, those days are long gone... you can't even get onto the 2nd floor of a high rise nowadays without a key card or security calling the tenant's front desk.
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Old Apr 8, 08, 8:10 am
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Originally Posted by Analise View Post
I don't think it's a true New York experience; it's a pure tourist experience. To get up there is pure hell as the OP illustrated above. The lines are ridiculous and I no longer accompany visiting friends who want to go. I just meet them later.

If you go to Top of the Rock, you'll be able to see the skyline including the Empire State Building. That sounds like a better deal.
It used to be easy getting up there with hardly any wait and not very crdwded either (20 yrs back) - now it's just about raking in the cash (though that's typical New York as well).

To fix this they should have timed entry with tickets ordered before arrival by phone/web.
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Old Apr 8, 08, 9:18 am
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Originally Posted by erik123 View Post
To fix this they should have timed entry with tickets ordered before arrival by phone/web.
The London Eye does things that way and IME it works very well.
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Old Apr 8, 08, 10:21 am
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Originally Posted by BearX220 View Post
The London Eye does things that way and IME it works very well.
Timed tickets work well at Top of the Rock, too, which is where I tell all visitors to go in lieu of the ESB. The building itself isn't as iconic, but the experience and the views are superior.
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